2023 BELMONT CLASSIC
NIGHT ONE RECAP
By: Tanner Quest
Happy holidays, wrestling fans! We got you a present–a three-night tournament featuring the best and brightest stars of tomorrow!
After a tumultuous 2022 event which saw multiple serious injuries and the eventual ouster of Belmont Foundation president Carter Laughlin, incoming president Shweta Kallemullah promised a return to the core values of the Belmont Classic. We’re about to see if she accomplished that goal, or if her best-laid schemes go awry.
Before we get started, I hope you’ll show some love to the rest of the RD team. Peter Rahal wrote a great article on the Legend Factory, a once-renowned training school that fell into disgrace. Karelma Gutierrez has an in-depth report on the state of Lucha Libre in 2024. Karen Nakano just finished her preview of Bang! Pro Wrestling’s Clash of Aces card, and Dustin Callais posted his latest Trending piece, where he lets us know which stars are on the rise, or decline. And of course Maeva Chastain has all the backstage gossip you could ever want.
Let’s get to it!
The feed opened to a packed house at the Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis, and a greeting from ring announcer Dylan Earley (1NW.) He introduced the rest of the crew: referees Ashley Barlow (PRIME), Rolento Shang (REIGN), Ron Martin (MVW), and Masked Justice (independent), then on-site reporters Dustin Callais (RingDispatch, yay!) and Lord Kurosame-sama (Bang! Pro Wrestling), and finally the announce table, Chloe London (MWK) and Priscilla Kennedy (PURE), the first all-female commentary team in Belmont history. Dylan then introduced the opening video package.
Bob Seger gets us started with his classic song, “Old Time Rock & Roll.” This year, the story of Johnny Belmont is told in pictures donated by his family and the Belmont Foundation.
St. Louis, 1960. Johnny Belmont stands across the ring from “Big Swede” Bob Lundberg. It will be years until he becomes the man he was meant to be, but you can see the spark of greatness in his eyes.
St. Louis, 1963. He stands in the ring, arms outstretched. His excellent physique is adorned with bright red trunks and boots, a red-and-white sequined robe, sunglasses, feathered boa, and an assortment of rings. Johnny Belmont has become “Rock & Roll.”
Kansas City, 1968. A meteoric rise has reached its peak, as Belmont clutches his newly-won Continental Wrestling Coalition World Heavyweight Championship to his chest. Tears fill his eyes; cheers fill his heart.
New York City, 1971. Belmont emerges from a popular nightclub, an attractive young woman on each arm. He is entering the peak of his stardom and greatly enjoying the lifestyle of a living legend.
Fort Lauderdale, 1975. Belmont reaches out for a tag to Cecil Doubleday, while the Masher grabs his foot in an effort to keep his team’s advantage. The masked menace would lose his grip moments later, allowing the local hero to save the national one.
London, 1977. A crowd of children do their best wrestling poses, while Johnny Belmont stands in the center. He sports a smile as big as all outdoors.
Los Angeles, 1980. Belmont is dominating an arm wrestling match with Gonzo the Great. The match would be declared a no contest when the podium exploded.
Chicago, 1982. Johnny spins his opponent, Doug “The Brightest” Star, into the St. Louis Swing, a move that would win him his third and final CWC World Heavyweight Championship.
Houston, 1985. After his final match, Johnny shakes the hand of “Ace of Spades” Julius Slater…and in doing so, passes the torch. A legend fades, but a new one is born.
St. Louis, 1990. In the city he called home, “Rock & Roll” Johnny Belmont introduces the event that will shape the future of professional wrestling. After thirty years of the industry giving him everything, he is taking the opportunity to give back.
Finally, a headshot of the man in his prime. We remember him at his best, in the hopes that it inspires the best in ourselves.
“ROCK ‘N ROLL” JOHNNY BELMONT
After a break for applause, Dylan announced the participants of the opening match.
GIO CORA vs. IZZY SIA
The crowd was abuzz for the opening match of the 2023 Belmont between Gio Cora and Izzy Sia. It’s not often that a 5’9” man has the size advantage, but Gio Cora dwarfed the diminutive Sia and decided to try and use that size and weight advantage from the off. A couple of deep arm drags early on told Cora this wouldn’t be the cakewalk he anticipated. The two battled back and forth, Cora continuing to press his advantage, while frustrated again and again by Sia’s seemingly unending ability to wriggle and snake out of holds.
Eventually, Izzy Sia tired of being bullied around the ring and stood toe-to-toe with Cora, encouraging the larger wrestler to strike her. They exchanged blows, but Cora slowly backed her into a corner, or was it bait? Sia deftly grabbed Cora’s arm and deftly slipped over the top rope and tied him in an arm bar. She released her grip at 4.99, but Cora was shook. Sensing this, Sia began attacking the arm with repeated kicks, Cora valiantly fought back with his good (weaker) arm, and corralled Sia for a DDT and a two count.
Cora popped up first and was able to quickly deadlift Sia into a bridging German suplex for another two count. With the crowd behind her, she struggled to her feet and encouraged the young Gio Cora to swing. That was his last mistake. She caught the attempt, and locked Gio Cora’s into the Keyholder before slamming down to the mat with him. The crowd erupted as he tapped and referee Ron Martin called for the bell; the tournament was well underway. (8:43)
WINNER: Izzy Sia; Rating: ***
We’ve learned not to expect much from graduates of Pursuit of Perfection–the school is basically a diploma mill, meant to boost the ego and bank account of Jackie Drummond–but Gio Cora is definitely an exception. He showed a lot of confidence and skill, and even though his ego got the best of him, he should expect to draw a lot of interest from promoters in the future.
Izzy Sia also opened a few eyes, showing a lot of ring savvy for a rookie. She might not be as highly touted as Burkhalter, but she definitely represented Blackhawk well here.
LA MUERTE ROJA vs. THE MAN CALLED STEVE
La Muerte Roja started off hot, using his mix of styles to overwhelm The Man Called Steve early. In fact it looked like it may be a short match after Steve hit his head against the ringpost on the outside. Referee Masked Justice feared he may have been concussed, but The Man Called Steve dismissed those concerns and began to mount a comeback. The crowd had no choice but to get behind The Man Called Steve, with “Steve” chants ringing loud. And he rode that momentum to a few nearfalls, one after a particularly devastating Atomic Drop.
But in the end he went to the well too often, missing on his fourth turnbuckle splash and giving La Muerta Roja an opening. The luchador leveled The Man Called Steve with a hard strike, then went to the top rope and hit Del Cielo al Infierno to score the win. (5:36)
WINNER: La Muerte Roja; Rating: **
Even with the crowd behind him, Steve seemed in over his head in this one. He had good command of the crowd during his comeback, On paper and in practice, he was the weaker of Suplex U’s prospects this year.
La Muerte Roja’s in-ring performance was as exciting as it was unsettling–a combination we probably haven’t seen since Tatterdemalion a few years ago. He showed brutal offense and shrewd tactics that are sure to take him far in the tournament.
Lord Kurosame-sama checked in out in the crowd, where we spotted many representatives of wrestling organizations from all over the world. Ray McAvay (Missouri Valley Wrestling), Ryuunosuke Doi and “Big Iron” Gorou Ichikawa (Bang! Pro Wrestling), Geoff “The Main Man” McGregor (Midwest Wrestling Kartel), and Miriam Sloane (Tennessee Wrestling Authority) all watched the proceedings with interest.
“Mastermind” MAGGIE DASHER vs. TRIV
The match opened with a lock up. Dasher sent TRIV into the ropes and prepared to catch him with a body-to-body suplex, but TRIV’s agility shined as he slid under Dasher. The entire match was a game of cat and mouse: TRIV displaying his athleticism and Dasher showcasing her technical abilities. Highlights included a hurricanrana from the top rope by TRIV, a series of consecutive German suplexes by Dasher, and a handful of counters by both participants.
Dasher locked in a full Nelson that wore down TRIV. On the third drop of the hand, TRIV surged and ran up the ropes, hitting a corkscrew modified cutter off the top rope. Everyone was sure this was it. TRIV confidently pulled Maggie into the Boston Crab. Just before he could sit back, Dasher deftly countered and transitioned into The Escape Plan, rolling TRIV up for the win. (6:01)
WINNER: Maggie Dasher, Rating: **1/2
A fun sprint between two contrasting styles, but I think we all wanted it to go on longer. TRIV definitely needs more experience, but he’s got something. Definitely one to watch in the future.
If you’re into the British style of technical wrestling, you’ll be a big fan of Maggie Dasher. Her slick counters and joint manipulation served her well here, and if her brother Tommy does well later, it should put them both in a pretty big spotlight.
YOSHINOBU NO vs. “The Essence of Essex” SHANE SEXTON
Yoshinobu shot in quickly hoping to secure a takedown and did, but Shane used the Derrick Lewis defense to power out and stand up. During the scramble to get back to their feet, Sexton managed to catch his opponent with a pair of hands that staggered Yoshi. The more polished wrestler looked to defend and went into survival mode, shot once again and hooked the larger wrestler’s legs. Sexton went down once again, but this time was not able to stand up as easily.
Yoshi worked a series of positions until he was able to grab a German suplex. During the lift, the smaller Yoshinobu caught an elbow to the face and dropped Sexton. The brawler went to work immediately. The next minute or so of action involved a dazed Yoshi avoiding heavy blows and covering up. The fans were definitely getting a bit unruly at the turtling strategy, but it was helping avoid major damage and giving the grappler some much needed breathing room.
Shane Sexton heard the crowd and tried to push the pace. He switched to catch wrestling and was nearly belly to belly suplexed out of his shoes. Yoshi went for a pin but it wasn’t for a three count. He showed his frustration/inexperience and stood up to complain to Ashley Barlow, which gave Sexton the opening he needed to launch a well timed knockout shot. Sexton followed with the Metric Sex-ton, then hooked the leg for a 1-2-3. (7:13)
WINNER: Shane Sexton, Rating: ***
Really fun match between two men who are very raw but show a lot of promise. No will have to get his emotions in check–arguing with the referee is always a bad move–but he still looked very sharp at times and is only done so early because of a tough draw.
Shane Sexton displayed a lot of heart and perseverance against a more skilled opponent, and did a great job of getting the crowd involved. Those kinds of intangibles will take him far.
Dustin Callais spoke with Franco Marchesi and Lord Gavin Yum, Esq., who spoke glowingly of Gates of Avalon trainee Lance Castle. (Coral Avalon, who would normally join them, was at home with his wife and newborn daughter.)
Seated nearby were representatives of the Crownless Kingdom–Claire Merci, Powerslam Anubis, and Ignacio el Jaguar–who were scouting Castle for possible membership in the group. When asked if the goal was to increase the Kingdom’s numbers, Merci replied, “Not necessarily,” and Gavin Yum got very nervous.
THEODORE BOSWELL vs. HAMBONE PARKINSON
In an electrifying showdown of the titans, the wrestling world was set ablaze as the colossal 6’11”, 293lbs behemoth, Theodore Boswell, squared off against the formidable 6’3″, 245lbs powerhouse, Hambone Parkinson.
Once the bell rang, Boswell’s imposing figure cast a shadow over the ring. His sheer size and intimidating presence sent chills down the spines of all the fans in attendance. From the opening bell, Boswell unleashed his fury, displaying immense strength by tossing Hambone around the ring like a ragdoll. Gasps were heard as Boswell’s thunderous power moves shook the very foundations of the arena. Everything from a one-handed body slam to a bone-crushing shoulder breaker, Boswell imposed his will on Parkinson. However, Hambone, with his resilience and quick thinking, managed to evade some of Boswell’s devastating attacks, using his agility to counter with lightning-fast strikes.
The match intensified while both competitors showcased their incredible athleticism. Parkinson’s agility, despite NOT being a luchador in any sense of the word, allowed him to land a series of high-flying maneuvers, leaving Boswell dazed and confused. In the end, however, it was Boswell’s brute force that would not be denied as each thunderous blow, he sent shockwaves through the ring, leaving Parkinson gasping for breath.
As the match entered its final moments, both wrestlers were battered and exhausted. Parkinson, fueled by undying determination, summoned his last reserves of energy and lifted Boswell’s legs for a Boston crab, but Boswell’s leg strength proved to be too much for Hambone to hang onto the maneuver. With one seismic shift of power, Boswell’s legs shoved Hambone neck first into the top rope! It was all over once Boswell got to his feet, hitting the Boswell Bomb — a nasty two-handed choke bomb — for the inevitable three-count! (7:56)
WINNER: Theodore Boswell; Rating: **½
Full credit to Hambone Parkinson; he didn’t back down for a moment against the much larger Boswell. The crowd loved his willingness to brawl; unfortunately, he doesn’t have the wrestling skills to complement his fighting spirit. He’ll have to venture outside of the Waffle House if he wants to round himself out.
The representative of MESSIAH Wrestling Academy put everyone on notice. Boswell is one of the biggest entrants this year and he doesn’t show an ounce of remorse in the ring. I think Theodore Boswell established himself as the man to beat this weekend.
Lord Kurosame-same spoke (sort of) with Peter Yelnik, better known as the recently-retired “Salty” Pete Yardley. He was excited to be watching as a fan this year, and had glowing comments about his teammate in the Scurvy Knaves, “Fancy” Dan Winthorpe.
“Dan’s a great kid–hard-working, eager to learn, and great with the fans. He and Brianna [Kincaid] are going to turn the world on its ear, I promise you.”
This is the first time I’ve heard him speak in his normal voice, and I don’t like it.
CHRIS CHICKENTENDERS vs. “The Foundation” BRICK MAYHEW
Chris Chickentenders exuded confidence from the moment he came out from the curtain until the moment the bell rang…at which point, Mayhew beat Chickentenders like he owed him money.
The match opened with a series of brutal shots to the face–I don’t know how many; I lost count somewhere around thirty–when Masked Justice finally broke it up to check on Chris. After confirming that Chickentenders was still conscious, the referee backed off.
Brick pulled up his opponent, whipped him into the ropes, and caught him with a lariat so forceful that Chickentenders momentarily defied gravity. Upon landing, CC’s neck folded like an accordion, and Mayhew moved in for the finish. The big man lifted Chickentenders straight from the mat onto his shoulders, locking in The Cornerstone. Masked Justice quickly called for the bell in fear that he may have just witnessed a murder. Ring attendants and medical staff saw to the young would-be wrestler as Brick left the ring and celebrated his victory. (2:35)
WINNER: Brick Mayhew; Rating: *
This was a murking almost on the level of Ray/Wheelwright last year. I should rebuke Mayhew as hard as I did Paxton Ray, but…well, I’ve met Chris Chickentenders. I’m fine with this.
Mayhew dominated here, showing excellent mastery of his size and strength. He’s set himself up for a deep run, though he still has to prove himself against actual competition. I can’t wait to see him up against one of the other beefy bois, Boswell or Martinez.
MORITON VS. “FANCY” DAN WINTHORPE
The ultimate match of style vs. substance pitted Golden Gate Wrestling’s resident fop against, well, you need to see Moriton in person to get an idea of how much a force of nature he is. You can look at his gear, the traditional garb of the bökh wrestlers on the Steppe, and think he’s got no style or coordination, but in that sky blue wrap-around and little cowboy boots is a wrecking ball. Winthorpe vexed him early on in the match with his agility and high flying. He peppered the Mongol rider with kicks and chops, but they more seemed to annoy him than harm him.
But then Moriton caught him off a flying forearm, just snatched his arm right out of the air, and it was all over for Fancy Dan. Judo throw after judo throw put the dapper young lad onto the ground. Each time, Moriton seemed to relish going to the mat to grind the kid. I have never seen someone with a smile on their face as wide as his applying a headlock to someone. Of course, with his agent Mr. Ho, he had on-site coaching, and that coaching told him not to play with his food. After a HARSH looking uranage, one he calls the Chingiisin Yalalt, Winthorpe was sent sailing away, probably to Valinor where he could live out the rest of eternity far away from the Mongol Mauler. (5:19)
WINNER: Moriton; Rating: **½
This rematch from the Flynn Cup produced a wildly different result, as Winthorpe wasn’t aided by his fellow Knaves, and Moriton wasn’t hindered by Felix Mullen. “Fancy Dan” seems better suited to the tag team division, where his weaknesses can be covered until he gets more seasoning.
If you’re not already familiar with bökh, Moriton put on an absolute clinic here. There’s nothing quite like seeing a new style of wrestling, and Moriton–representing the vanguard for it here in the US–should go very far.
LANCE CASTLE VS. ARNOLD KILLMORE
A battle between two of the crown jewels of two West Coast wrestling schools in the first round? I haven’t seen a more brutal first round draw since, well, Nate Colton got Cancer Jiles in the first round of the Almasy! Castle very much looked like the superior wrestler early on, taking advantage of Killmore’s hubris, but a well-timed eye poke put the representative of Devil’s Ditch in control. It was clear that this advantage was held together with something less strong than duct tape, because Castle kept coming close to breaking through. For as much as Killmore was arrogant, he was clever enough to keep his underhanded shortcuts out of Ashley Barlow’s view. Castle did make a short-lived comeback, countering an attempt at the Killshot with an exploder suplex. But Killmore’s cheating ways kept Castle down for the better part of the match.
But when Castle found an opening, he split Killmore’s advantage open like David Spade’s suit jacket on Chris Farley in Tommy Boy. A careless cover turned into a crucifix pin. Then a yakuza kick, just like his teacher taught him, to a stunned Killmore. Then machine gun chops and big suplexes until he was ready to finish him off. And finish him off he did. He borrowed another one of Professor Coral’s Armaments, the Secace, to put the finishing touches on Arnold Killmore. (9:14)
WINNER: Lance Castle; Rating: ***
Killmore has all the physical tools, but lacks the mental ones. He’s got just enough acumen to keep his rulebreaking out of sight–a very dangerous game at the Belmont–but couldn’t regain control once he lost it. If Arnold Killmore wants to live up to his potential, he’ll have to start using his head as well as his muscles.
Lance Castle also looks like he’s got all the tools, and seems a lot smarter about using them. An excellent performance by another Gates of Avalon student. Despite the school’s troubles earlier this year, they continue to produce high-quality wrestlers.
CRASH VS. MYRTLE KOMBAT
Fans didn’t know what to think about Myrtle, who looked like she stepped out of a bad sitcom. Crash was a fan favorite though. Folks really have taken to him on ReVival and, well, this was a PRIME-friendly crowd. Of course, the crowd wasn’t the only body that didn’t know what to make of the ponytailed competitor from the Inland Empire, but Crash found out real quick. In his confusion sizing her up, The Femme Fatality (a name I just came up with for her) took him off his feet with a form-perfect slide, like the kind Sub-Zero or Reptile would do. That’s when the crowd AND Crash started taking her seriously, but she got in a few more licks against the PRIME patron.
Where things went downhill for her was after she tried one of those pivot-spinning roundhouse kicks. Crash caught it, threw her around for a loop, and cracked her in the jaw with his WIDE LEFT superkick. From there, it was academic. Crash was able to avoid the desperation freeze shot, which I’m not entirely sure is legal in regular wrestling let alone in the “spirit of competition” atmosphere of the Belmont, and put her on the canvas for the CRASH DOT COM corkscrew shooting star press. Myrtle Kombat made a few fans this evening for sure, but let’s face it. This was the Crash show from top to bottom. (4:59)
WINNER: Crash, Rating: **
Myrtle has to be one of the stranger entrants in the Belmont’s history, ranking up there with the likes of Scurvy Jones, Mr. Invisible, and Jungle Reconnaissance Aardvark. She proved to have some…interesting moves, and should get a few looks from promoters after this.
Once he got used to the weirdness, Crash settled down and took control fairly easily. His short time in PRIME is already reaping benefits, providing a level of experience most other people in the tournament don’t have.
GABRIEL “Baconator” MARTINEZ VS. YOUTA MITSUMINE
The match started off slow, with Mitsumine and Martinez trying to feel each other out. Things started to pick up after the Baconator gave young Youta a hard scoop slam. The young lion fired up, throwing a barrage of forearms. They didn’t seem to have much of an effect against his heavy set adversary, but a beautiful dropkick did stagger Martinez.
The tide turned when Mitsumine attempted a cross body from the top. Gabriel effortlessly caught his smaller opponent and squashed him with a front slam. Youta did show good fighting spirit by kicking out just before three. He tried to go back to the forearms, but they had little power behind them. When Martinez responded with a few hooking forearms, Mitsumine dropped like a brick.
Youta fought hard to regain both his footing and senses. Those were wiped away in short order by an impressive rebounding springboard cross body from Martinez. The Baconator drug Mitsumine’s spent body over towards the corner. A Bacon Bomb would ensure Youta wouldn’t kick out again, giving Martinez the win! (6:01)
WINNER: Gabriel Martinez; Rating: **
Youta Mitsumine fought admirably, but didn’t have an answer for the Baconator’s size advantage. His offense is a bit limited, but I expect to see him come into his own in the coming years.
The Baconator has been served well by his training under Timo Bolamba, as well as his time in SHOOT Project earlier this year. His style is very unique for his size, too; that’s going to cause people some problems as the tournament progresses.
Dustin Callais commented on the increased security backstage, mostly surrounding the coffee pots. In the hopes of avoiding another Shenanigans Warning, the arena’s head of security hired more staff, set up checkpoints, and as a last line of defense, a big sign with a red circle and slash over Charles Beckett’s face.
One observer was heard to say, “Aw, man…”
“The Son of Liberty” RENJAMIN BRUSCH vs. DOMINGO CRUZ
Domingo Cruz wasted no time getting things rolling, starting things with a collar and elbow tie up. He slipped behind with a smooth hammer lock, but Renjamin Brusch was quick to reverse. Cruz reversed again and took Brusch down with a drop toe hold before floating over for a grounded front face lock. Pushing the advantage, Cruz yanked the Son of Liberty up in the hold, turning it into a picture perfect snap suplex for a two count from Rolento Shang.
After Brusch stumbled to his feet, Domingo was quick to whip him into the ropes. Renjamin ducked a clothesline attempt and when Cruz tried another, Renny reversed it into a crucifix for a two count! A small package from Brusch, another two! A backslide! Two again! A frustrated Cruz then waylayed Brusch with a big forearm shot!
The bigger Cruz yanked Renjamin up and put him back down with a gorgeous German Suplex that got a close two! Domingo followed up with an abdominal stretch, really cinching it in! Just when it looked like Brusch might call it quits, he managed to somehow roll Cruz onto the mat for another two! Brusch fired up the crowd and looked to hit something big…
When some joker in the audience yelled out “THE BRITISH ARE COMING!”
A spooked Brusch bolted towards the corner, looking for his trusty rifle… Yes, I wish I was kidding about that. When the panicked patriot couldn’t locate his firearm, he turned around into a boot to the gut from Domingo! The Deuce Dime left the SoL SOL as Cruz picked up the three count! (3:51)
WINNER: Domingo Cruz, Rating: *½
I think Uncle Giuseppe needs to spend less time teaching the spinning backhand, and more time teaching his students not to get distracted so easily. Much like the Big Blue Bug last year, Renjamin fell victim to crowd interaction…though to be honest, that only delayed the inevitable.
Domingo Cruz continues to impress in his rookie season. With every win, he keeps increasing his already high stock, and also brings attention to the Minorez brothers as trainers.
CONNOR NACKEDY vs. TRECE VICKERS
The match began with a flurry, Vickers and Nackedy sizing each other up before Vickers attempted to use his size and strength advantage. When the two would grapple, Vickers would either push Nackedy into the corner, or flat onto his back, with the latter kipping back to his feet each time. Eventually, Nackedy was able to use his quickness and technical ability to find the advantage, catching Vickers off guard with timeless classics like the drop toe hold. This led into a period of Nackedy trying a couple of rest holds, including a side headlock that Vickers easily bullied himself out of.
Vickers was able to turn that into a monster powerslam on the rope return and got a great crowd reaction. Nackedy kicked out at two, but was reeling. However, Nackedy’s technical nous would eventually get the better of the talented, but raw Colton Academy product. Nackedy reversed a standing switch into a thunderous release german suplex, but Vickers popped up and immediately tried to spear Nackedy. Connor sidestepped and as Vickers came back at him he was able to connect with the Looking Forward. The Gray’s Academy newcomer had his arm raised and would be looking forward to the second round of the Belmont Cup. (9:38)
WINNER: Connor Nackedy, Rating: ***
It’s pretty rare for a Colton Academy graduate to be one-and-done like this, but I wonder if that style is the wrong fit for Trece. He might be better served by leaning more into his power game than the Coltons’ technical expertise. Still, he wrestled a very good match against a tough opponent, and we’re sure to see his name again.
Connor Nackedy comes in with a strong pedigree and a remarkable amount of polish, and we saw both in effect here. He struggled at times with Vickers’ size advantage, but kept his composure and stuck to his game plan, which paid off. Great showing for this young man.
Lord Kurosame-sama caught up with Joey Malone and his family. Joey, who competed in 1995, said he was there to watch the show, catch up with friend, and relive old times. “And definitely NOT to push the button that will raise the secret pyramid underneath the arena. Nope. Definitely not.”
DREW MITCHELL vs. “Turbo” TOMMY DASHER
The match started off fast–Dasher went for a headlock, which Mitchell countered with a side suplex, only for Tommy to land on his feet then send Mitchell stumbling out of the ring with a dropkick. “Turbo” immediately lived up to his nickname, shooting off the ropes and crashing into Mitchell with a tope suicida!
Both men took to brawling on the outside, which turned the match in Drew Mitchell’s favor. Ron Martin had counted to five when they both got back in the ring, where Mitchell pressed his advantage with some heavy strikes, including a brutal uppercut that put Tommy down for a two-count.
Drew whipped Dasher off the ropes for a clothesline, but Tommy ducked the move and jumped, springboarding off the second rope into a follow-up attack. But Mitchell was ready for it, and caught Tommy Dasher in mid-air! From there he hit the Tenshi Clash, driving his knees into Dasher’s face and making the three-count academic. (4:24)
WINNER: Drew Mitchell; Rating: **½
Tommy is all gas and no brakes–a lot of fun to watch, but maybe not a viable path to success. The crowd loved him though, and I think he’s got a viable career in the tag division with his sister, Maggie.
Drew Mitchell showed us why he’s already working for a large promotion. The man is a menace in the ring, combining brutal offense with a complete lack of mercy. Definitely a rising star here.
“The Rookie” CHET REED vs. ROSE
Chet Reed opened the match by offering a handshake. Rose kicked him in the face. That set the tone for a very one-sided affair, with Rose being too quick and hungry to lose the advantage, and Reed being too old and inexperienced to take it. Rose kept Reed off-balance with a series of quick knee strikes, then planted him with a DDT that honestly scared the crowd a little bit.
Reed got in a few punches, but it wasn’t enough to turn the tide. After a vertical suplex, Rose climbed to the top rope, twisted through the air, and crashed onto Reed with the Wilt To Bloom. Masked Justice’s three-count was academic. (2:43)
WINNER: Rose; Rating: ½
Thanks for playing, Chet.
Normally an easy first-round draw would come as a welcome surprise, but Rose actually seemed insulted by it. She’s already been on a bigger stage, and with higher stakes, than anyone else in this year’s field. Expect a strong showing in Round 2, as she should have an even bigger chip on her shoulder by then.
Dustin Callais spoke with Tamika Holland, St. Louis resident and Belmont Classic superfan. She has attended every event–even going through the safety protocols surrounding the 2020 Classic–and has an autograph book with the signatures of every participant. She gladly showed a few pages, saying, “People ask me how much this is worth, but I’ve never dreamed about selling it. This is my piece of history.”
“Boxcar” LEM HAWTHORNE vs. “Rhino Horn” SHINJI KOMIYA
Next up, a real crowd-pleaser.
The Monster Menagerie member “Rhino Horn” Shinji Komiya came out like a rhino and dominated opponent Lem Hawthorne early on with some basic but fundamentally sound offense. An iron-gripped headlock followed by an Irish whip transition and a clothesline; a chop exchange turned into a series of hip tosses by Komiya.
But “Boxcar” Lem Hawthorne, though clearly unaccustomed to such a polished, classical wrestling moveset, quickly found an opening for his own brand of offense; of the Cirque de Appalachian variety. A spinning dropkick from Hawthorne put Komiya over the ropes and out of the ring, followed by “Boxcar” suicide diving over the top rope and toppling himself and Komiya within crowd’s reach.
The two slugged it out after recovering, and at one point Hawthorne even pulled Komiya up on the announcer’s table presumably for another crazy spot. But Komiya managed to fight “Boxcar” off and scramble back in the ring with Hawthorne hot on his feet.
“Rhino Horn” engaged IMMEDIATELY with a belly-to-belly suplex and a follow up leg drop guillotine. But in the end he gained his confidence back too quickly; an attempted powerbomb was reversed into a crowd-pleasing hurricanrana by Hawthorne, who then hopped the turnbuckle, slapped himself in the head with his tongue out to the raucous approval of the crowd, and hit Komiya with the “Space Monkey”, a high-flying headbutt that had Komiya convulsing. A one-two-three later and Hawthorne was declared the victor. (7:39)
WINNER: Lem Hawthorne; Rating: ***
A tough outing for the member of the Monster Menagerie. Komiya, much like fellow Bang! At Your Dojo graduate Youta Mitsumine, has a strong base but struggled against an unorthodox opponent. He’s already a fixture in Bang! Pro Wrestling, so his style should evolve quickly. Sadly, it hasn’t done so enough to help him tonight.
Lem Hawthorne is one of those wrestlers who can do just about anything at any time, and someone that full of surprises can be very hard to strategize against. They can make a deep run or get bounced immediately, but they’re always fun to watch. I’m glad we’ll get to see him on Night Two.
JOEY “Golden” BURKHALTER VS. “Five Star” FREDDIE SPARKS
The competitors made their respective entrances looking ready to fight. “Five Star” Freddie Sparks was the picture of focus and determination, while Joey “Golden” Burkhalter entered with a swagger of self-confidence. There was a palpable tension as the two stared each other down from across the ring while official Ashley Barlow of PRIME made preliminary checks.
Golden Burkhalter came out swinging off the opening bell, using his advantage in height and reach to keep Sparks at bay with the threat of high roundhouse kicks. But while Burkhalter took possession of the center of the ring, Sparks remained vigilant from a distance looking for an opening. His patience paid off when Joey, perhaps growing impatient for him to make a move, brazenly came at him with a lunging knee, which Freddie dodged with a smooth spin into a drop toe hold. Burkhalter came up quickly, but Sparks was waiting with a bridging German suplex that earned him only two counts before a strong kickout.
Sparks threw himself across Burkhalter’s back and hooked the arms to keep him under his thumb, but didn’t account for Joey’s left arm to slip free and deliver a sharp elbow to his ribs. Golden Burkhalter slipped under him and went behind, bringing Sparks to the canvas with a double-leg takedown of his own. He quickly followed up with a reverse mount and pummeled the back of Freddie’s head with relentless rights and lefts.
Five Star Freddie was in a bad position, but kept his wits and quickly went to work to free himself. A forward roll pitched Golden Burkhalter over onto his chest, and Sparks ended up behind him with a leg in his hands, which he immediately twisted into an enzuigiri to corkscrew Joey through the air and flop him to the mat. Burkhalter rose up immediately, but walked straight into a standing dropkick from Sparks that sent him tumbling to the outside.
The cocky demeanor of the Blackhawk Fight Gym graduate had broken as he lingered outside attempting to catch his breath, but Freddie Sparks had no intention to letting his momentum dry up. A quick bounce off the ropes and baseball slide to the unsuspecting Golden Burkhalter kept the pressure up on Joey. Sparks got him back into the ring, netting only a two count off the pin attempt.
Freddie began to get Burkhalter up again, but Joey’s offense came alive with a combination of elbows and kicks to the chest that left Sparks reeling. A wheel kick that goes too wide finally gives Five Star Freddie an opportunity to duck and roll into a flip back to his feet, earning him a pop from the fans. A set of high kicks to the chest of Golden Burkhalter served as a set-up for stiff Tiger Suplex. Sparks kipped up to his feet, again to the fans, and hurried to the top rope. The Frog Splash connected with great impact, but Burkhalter somehow kicked out a hair before the three.
Sparks was stunned, but eventually regained his resolve and went again to the top rope while Burkhalter continued to slowly writhe around on the canvas in a stupor. A pose to the cheering fans precluded a beautiful twisting moonsault press known as the Five Star Suite. Tragically, its grace would not match its impact, as Sparks landed on nothing but empty canvas. Having rolled clear, Golden Burkhalter’s cocky smirk returned to his face.
From there, Joey could smell blood in the water, and baited the stunned Freddie Sparks back up until he was in position for the Geum Chagi twisting roundhouse kick. Five Star Freddie immediately hit the mat, and Golden Burkhalter promptly made the pin for the three count. (14:53)
WINNER: Joey Burkhalter; Rating: ****
A great finish to Night One, with Freddie Sparks doing everything he could to live up to his nickname. He hung in there with someone who’s leaps and bounds beyond the rest of the field, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Sparks would be the likely winner against nearly anyone else in the tournament; it’s a shame we won’t get to see more of him this weekend.
Burkhalter is exactly as advertised–arrogant, but with damn good reason. It’s easy to see why he’s the darling of Blackhawk Fight Gym, as well as one of the favorites in this year’s tournament. His talent is incredible, and undeniable.
That concludes Night One! Like always, it’s a mixed bag in terms of match quality, but the fans had a great time, the table was set for a fascinating Night Two, and nobody had to go to the emergency room. All in all, a good start to the Belmont Classic.
Thanks for reading, and also thanks to our Patreon subscribers who joined us for the discussion panel after the event. For the whole RingDispatch.com team, thanks for reading, and check back soon for Night Two!
Grover: Cora/Sia, Nackedy/Vickers
Ria: Martinez/Mitsumine, Brusch/Cruz
TH: Moriton/Winthorpe, Castle/Killmore, Crash/Kombat
Zach: M.Dasher/TRIV, Chickentenders/Mayhew
Thanks to those who contributed characters.